Grand Duchy of Finland

Last updated
Grand Duchy of Finland

Suomen suuriruhtinaskunta (Finnish)
Storfurstendömet Finland (Swedish)
Великое княжество Финляндское (Russian)
Velikoye knyazhestvo Finlyandskoye
Grand Principality of Finland (1914).svg
The Grand Duchy of Finland in 1914.
Status Governorate-General of the Russian Empire
Capital Turku
Common languages Swedish, Finnish, Russian
Evangelical Lutheran, Finnish Orthodox
Government Monarchy
Grand Duke  
Alexander I
Nicholas I
Alexander II
Alexander III
Nicholas II
Georg Sprengtporten (first)
Nikolai Nekrasov (last)
Vice Chairman  
Count Carl Erik Mannerheim (first)
Anders Wirenius (last)
Legislature Senate
29 March 1809
17 September 1809
6 December 1917
1910360,000 km2 (140,000 sq mi)
Currency Swedish riksdaler
Russian ruble
Finnish markka
ISO 3166 code FI
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Flag of Sweden.svg Finland under Swedish rule
Viipurin laani.vaakuna.svg Vyborg Governorate
Finnish Declaration of Independence Flag of Finland (1918-1920).svg
Today part ofFlag of Finland.svg  Finland
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia

The Grand Duchy of Finland (Finnish : Suomen suuriruhtinaskunta, Swedish : Storfurstendömet Finland, Russian : Великое княжество Финляндское, Velikoye knyazhestvo Finlyandskoye; literally Grand Principality of Finland) was the predecessor state of modern Finland. It existed between 1809 and 1917 as an autonomous part of the Russian Empire.

Finnish language language arising and mostly spoken in Finland

Finnish is a Finnic language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. Finnish is one of the two official languages of Finland ; Finnish is also an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both Standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a Finnish dialect, are spoken. The Kven language, a dialect of Finnish, is spoken in Northern Norway by a minority group of Finnish descent.

Swedish language North Germanic language spoken in Sweden

Swedish is a North Germanic language spoken natively by 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden, and in parts of Finland, where it has equal legal standing with Finnish. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and to some extent with Danish, although the degree of mutual intelligibility is largely dependent on the dialect and accent of the speaker. Both Norwegian and Danish are generally easier for Swedish speakers to read than to listen to because of difference in accent and tone when speaking. Swedish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. It has the most speakers of the North Germanic languages.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.


Originating in the 16th century as a titular grand duchy held by the King of Sweden, it became autonomous after the Russian annexation in the Finnish War. The Grand Duke of Finland was the Romanov Emperor of Russia, who was represented by the Governor-General. Due to the governmental structure of the Russian Empire and Finnish initiative, the grand duchy's autonomy expanded until the end of the 19th century. The Senate of Finland was founded in 1809, which became the most important governmental organ and the precursor to the modern Government of Finland, Supreme Court of Finland and the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland. [1]

A grand duchy is a country or territory whose official head of state or ruler is a monarch bearing the title of grand duke or grand duchess.

Finnish War 1808–1809 war between Russia and Sweden

The Finnish War was fought between the Kingdom of Sweden and the Russian Empire from February 1808 to September 1809. As a result of the war, the eastern third of Sweden was established as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire. Other notable effects were the Swedish parliament's adoption of a new constitution and the establishment of the House of Bernadotte, the new Swedish royal house, in 1818.

Grand Duke of Finland

Grand Duke of Finland or the Grand Prince of Finland, was from around 1580 to 1809 a title in use by most Swedish monarchs. Between 1809 and 1917, it was the official title of the head of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, who was the Emperor of Russia. The anachronistic female form of the title in English is usually Grand Princess of Finland. The only women to have used the title were the Swedish Queens regnant Christina and Ulrika Eleonora. A few crown princes of Sweden also were called Grand Prince of Finland.

The economic, social and political changes in the Grand Duchy of Finland were closely connected with those in the Russian Empire and the rest of Europe. The economy grew slowly during the first half of the 19th century. The reign of Alexander II after 1855 saw significant cultural, social and intellectual progress and an industrializing economy. Tensions increased after the Russification policies were enacted in 1889, which saw the introduction of limited autonomy and reduction of Finnish cultural expression. The unrest in Russia and Finland during World War I and the subsequent collapse of the Russian Empire resulted in the Finnish Declaration of Independence and the end of the Grand Duchy. [2]

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

Alexander II of Russia Emperor of Russia

Alexander II was the Emperor of Russia from 2 March 1855 until his assassination on 13 March 1881. He was also the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Finland.

Russification of Finland

The policy of Russification of Finland was a governmental policy of the Russian Empire aimed at limiting the special status of the Grand Duchy of Finland and possibly the termination of its political autonomy and cultural uniqueness in 1899–1905 and in 1908–1917. It was a part of a larger policy of Russification pursued by late 19th–early 20th century Russian governments which tried to abolish cultural and administrative autonomy of non-Russian minorities within the empire.


An extended Southwest Finland was made a titular grand duchy in 1581, when King Johan III of Sweden, who as a prince had been the Duke of Finland (1556–1561/63), extended the list of subsidiary titles of the Kings of Sweden considerably. [3] The new title Grand Duke of Finland did not result in any Finnish autonomy, as Finland was an integrated part of the Kingdom of Sweden with full parliamentary representation for its counties. During the next two centuries, the title was used by some of Johan's successors on the throne, but not all. Usually, it was just a subsidiary title of the King, used only on very formal occasions. However, in 1802, as an indication of his resolve to keep Finland within Sweden in the face of increased Russian pressure, King Gustav IV Adolf gave the title to his new-born son, Prince Carl Gustaf, who died three years later.

Southwest Finland Region in Finland Proper, Finland

Southwest Finland or, officially, Varsinais-Suomi, also known as Finland Proper is a region in the south-west of Finland. It borders the regions of Satakunta, Tavastia Proper (Kanta-Häme), and Uusimaa. The region's capital and most populous city is Turku.

Duke of Finland was an occasional medieval title granted as a tertiogeniture to the relatives of the King of Sweden between the 13th and 16th centuries. It included a duchy along with feudal customs, and often represented a veritably independent principality. Grand Duke of Finland was a nominal royal title used by Swedish monarchs from the 1580s until 1720, was revived again briefly 1802-1805 and was also used by Russia's monarchs until 1917.

Russian Empire Former country, 1721–1917

The Russian Empire, also known as Imperial Russia or simply Russia, was an empire that existed across Eurasia and North America from 1721, following the end of the Great Northern War, until the Republic was proclaimed by the Provisional Government that took power after the February Revolution of 1917.

During the Finnish War between Sweden and Russia, the four Estates of occupied Finland were assembled at the Diet of Porvoo on 29 March 1809 to pledge allegiance to Tsar Alexander I of Russia, who in return guaranteed that the area's laws and liberties, as well as religion, would be left unchanged. Following the Swedish defeat in the war and the signing of the Treaty of Fredrikshamn on 17 September 1809, Finland became a true autonomous grand duchy within the autocratic Russian Empire; but the usual balance of power between monarch and diet resting on taxation was not in place, since the Emperor could rely on the rest of his vast Empire. The title "Grand Duke of Finland" was added to the long list of titles of the Russian Tsar.

Riksdag of the Estates was the name used for the Estates of Sweden when they were assembled. Until its dissolution in 1866, the institution was the highest authority in Sweden next to the King. It was a Diet made up of the Four Estates, which historically were the lines of division in Swedish society:

Diet of Porvoo

The Diet of Porvoo, was the summoned legislative assembly to establish the Grand Principality of Finland in 1809 and the heir of the powers of the Swedish Riksdag of the Estates. The session of the Diet lasted from March to July 1809.

Tsar title given to a male monarch in Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia

Tsar, also spelled czar, or tzar, is a title used to designate East and South Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers of Eastern Europe, originally Bulgarian monarchs from 10th century onwards. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism. The term is derived from the Latin word Caesar, which was intended to mean "Emperor" in the European medieval sense of the term—a ruler with the same rank as a Roman emperor, holding it by the approval of another emperor or a supreme ecclesiastical official —but was usually considered by western Europeans to be equivalent to king, or to be somewhat in between a royal and imperial rank.

After his return to Finland in 1812, the Finnish-born Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt became counsellor to the Russian emperor. Armfelt was instrumental in securing the Grand Duchy as an entity with relatively greater autonomy within the Russian realm, and restoring the so-called Old Finland that had been lost to Russia in the Treaty of Nystad in 1721. [4]

Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt Swedish general and diplomat

Count Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt was a Finnish, Swedish and Russian courtier and diplomat. In Finland, he is considered one of the greatest Finnish statesmen. His advice to Russia's Tsar Alexander I was of utmost importance for securing the autonomy of the Grand Duchy of Finland.

Old Finland

Old Finland is a name used for the areas that Russia gained from Sweden in the Great Northern War and in the Russo-Swedish War (1741–1743). Old Finland was joined to the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland as Viipuri province in 1812.

Treaty of Nystad August 1721 peace treaty between Russia and Sweden

The Treaty of Nystad was the last peace treaty of the Great Northern War of 1700–1721. It was concluded between the Tsardom of Russia and the Swedish Empire on 10 September [O.S. 30 August] 1721 in the then Swedish town of Nystad. Sweden had settled with the other parties in Stockholm and in Frederiksborg (1720).

The Beginning of the Grand Duchy

The formation of the Grand Duchy stems from the Treaty of Tilsit between Tsar Alexander I of Russia and Napoleon Bonaparte of France. The treaty mediated peace between Russia and France and allied the two countries against Napoleon's remaining threats: Great Britain and Sweden. Russia invaded Finland in February 1808, claimed as an effort to impose military sanctions against Sweden, but not a war of conquest, and that Russia decided to only temporarily control Finland. Collectively, the Finnish were predominately Anti-Russian, and Finnish guerillas and peasant uprisings were a large obstacles for the Russians, forcing Russia to use various tactics to quash armed Finnish rebellion. Thus, in the beginning of the war, General Friedrich Wilhelm von Buxhoeveden, with permission of the Tsar, issued an oath of fealty on Finland, in which Russia would honor Finland's Lutheran faith, the Finnish Diet, and the Finnish estates as long as the Finns would remain loyal to the Russian crown. The oath also dubbed anyone person who gave aid to the Swedish or Finnish armies a rebel. [5]

The Finns complied, bitter over Sweden abandoning the country for their war against Denmark and France, and begrudgingly embraced Russian conquest. The Diet of Finland was now to only meet whenever requested, and was never mentioned in the manifesto published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Further on, Alexander I requested a deputation of the four Finnish estates, as he expressed concern over continued Finnish resistance. The deputation refused to act without the Diet, to which Alexander agreed with, and promised the Diet would shortly be summoned. By 1809, all of Finland had been conquered and The Diet was summoned in March. Finland was then united through Russia via crown, and Finland was able to keep the majority of its own laws, giving it autonomy. [6] [7]

Early years

The earlier years of the Grand Duchy can be seen as uneventful. In 1812, the area of Old Finland, known as the Viipuri Province was returned to Finland after being annexed by Russia in the Great Northern War and the Russo-Swedish War (1741–1743). This surprising action by the Tsar was met with anger from certain parts of the Russian government and aristocracy, who wished to either return to the previous border or annex the communities west of St. Petersburg. Despite the outcry, the borders remained set until 1940. The gesture can be seen as Alexander's concern for Finland and his attempts of appeasement of the Finns, in attempts to gain their loyalty which would come from passive appeasement, compared to the vigorous Russification later in the 1800s. Moreover, Alexander moved the capital from Turku to Helsinki, a small fortified town protected by Suomenlinna. Finland's main university also transferred to Helsinki after a fire broke out in Turku, destroying most of the building.

Despite promises of a Finnish Diet, the Diet was not called to meet until 1863 and many new laws going through the legislature would have to had required the approval of the Diet while under Sweden. Alexander went a step further to demand a Finnish House of Nobles, which organized in 1818. The house was designed to register all noble families in Finland so that the highest Finnish estate would be representative of the next Finnish Diet. As for Sweden, the majority did not think too much about Finland's conquest, as Sweden itself annexed Norway from Denmark in 1814 and entered a personal union with the nation. Whether or not Alexander purposely ignored the existence of the Diet is debatable, with notable factors such as the fall of Napoleon and the creation of the Holy Alliance, newfound religious mysticism of the Russian crown, and the negative experience with the Polish sejm. Despite this, Alexander I ceased to give in to Finnish affairs and returned to governing Russia. [8]

Alexander's death and the assimilation of Finland: 1820s–1850s

Central Helsinki in 1820 Helsinki 1820.jpg
Central Helsinki in 1820

In 1823, Arseny Zakrevsky was made governor-general of Finland and quickly became unpopular by the Finns and Swedes alike. Zakrevsky abolished the Committee for Finnish Affairs and managed to obtain the right to submit Finnish affairs to the Tsar, bypassing the Finnish Secretary of State. Two years later, Alexander died. Zakrevsky used this opportunity to push an oath of fealty on Finland, which would refer to the Tsar the absolute ruler of Finland, which was planned to be Constantine, Alexander's younger brother. However, Nicholas, younger brother of Constantine and Alexander, became Tsar despite the Decembrist revolt against him. Nicholas assured Finland's secretary of state, Robert Henrik Rehbinder, that Nicholas would continue to uphold Alexander's liberal policies regarding Finland. By 1830, Europe had become a hotbed of revolution and reform as a result of the July Revolution in France. Poland, another Russian client state, hosted a massive uprising against the Tsar during the November Uprising. Finland made no such move, as Russia had already won over Finnish loyalty some decades ago. Thus, Russia continued its policies respecting Finnish autonomy and the quiet assimilation of the Finns into the empire. Zakrevsky died in 1831 and was replaced with Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov, who continued Finnish appeasement. The appeasement of the Finns could be seen as a prototype to the later Russification, as educated Finns moved to Russia in mass, seeking jobs within the Tsarist court to rise within Russian imperialist society. The Russian language was studied excitedly as well, with more Finns seeking to learn Russian language, politics, culture, and assimilate into Russian society. Even though, Nicholas had no intentions on doing this, his inner office, specifically Nicholas's Interior Minister, Lev Perovski, advocated for Arseny Zakrevsky's ideas and further pushed the ideas of subtle Russification during the 1840s. [9]

However, Finland did have a nationalistic revolution in the 1830s, one that was based around literature. Thus, this was the beginning of the Fennoman movement, a nationalistic movement that would remain in Finland until its independence. In 1831, the Finnish Literary Society was founded, which formed on the basis of appreciation of the Finnish language. Finnish was not represented as language of the scholarly elite, as most printed academic works, novels, and poetry was written in either Swedish or Russian. Copying the German reading rage, Lesewut, and subsequent Swedish mania, Finland entered the reading frantic by the 1830s. This rage heightened in 1835 with the publication of Kalevala, the Finnish epic. Kalevala's influence on Finland was massive, and strengthened Finnish nationalism and unity, despite the epic being poetry or stories about Finnish folklore. The quest for literature expanded into the 1840s and 1850s and caught the eye of the Finnish church and the Russian crown. Finnish newspapers, such as Maamiehen Ystävä (The Farmer's Friend), began being published in both urban and rural areas of Finland. Despite this, Finland's literature movement was met with opposition from the Swedish academic elite, the church, and the Russian government. Archbishop Edvard Bergenheim called for a double censorship on works that go against the church and works that are socialist or communist. The reactionary policies of the Lutheran Church convinced the also reactionary Nicholas I to prohibit the publishing of all Finnish works that were not religious or economical, as such works would have been considered revolutionary and would convince the Finnish majority to revolt against the church and crown. Despite that, the censorship only fueled Finland's language strife and the Fennomanian movement. [10] [11] [12]

The Crimean War and the 1860s–1870s

Ball in Helsinki in honour of Alexander II, 1863 Mihaly Zichy - Ball in Honour of Alexander II - WGA25974.jpg
Ball in Helsinki in honour of Alexander II, 1863

The works of Johan Snellman and other Fennoman authors combined literature and nationalism and increased the calls for language recognition and education reforms in Finland. This heightened during the Crimean War in which Finnish ports and fortresses on the Baltic Sea became subject for Allied attacks, specifically Suomenlinna and Bomarsund in the Åland Islands. As newspapers were printed in Swedish and Russian due to the censorship, many Finns could not read about the events of the Battle of Bomarsund and the Battle of Suomenlinna. Moreover, Nicholas I died in 1855, and the new emperor, Alexander II, had already planned educational reforms in outlying territories in Russia, including Finland. [13] Alexander II also planned to call on the Diet of the Estates once more. Under Alexander's rule, Finland experiences a period of liberalization in education, the arts, and economic desires. In 1858, Finnish was made the official language of local self-government, such as provinces, where Finnish was the majority of the language spoken. However, the Finns feared that Moscow would prevent the Diet from meeting on the basis that Polish and Russian citizens did not receive the same liberties and that the Diet would be eradicated. It was misinterpreted, as it only added a few extra steps to how the lawmaking process worked; the Diet was allowed to stay.

In 1863, Alexander called the Diet and issued that the Finnish language was to be on par with Swedish and Russian in the Grand Duchy, while also passing laws regarding infrastructure and currency. Alexander came to favor the Finnish working class over the Swedish elite, due to Swedish propaganda during the Crimean War urging revolt against the Russians. Alexander also passed a law regarding language ordinance in August 1863, requiring that the Finnish language must be introduced to all public businesses within twenty years. The law was expanded in 1865 to require that state offices must serve the public in Finnish if requested. Despite this, the language laws took time to be fully implemented due to the interference of the Swedish elite, who owned most of these offices and businesses. Despite this, the education laws pushed through and the first secondary schools instructed in Finnish began in the 1870s. [14] [15] The power of the Diet was also expanded in 1869, as it allowed the Diet more power and the ability to initiate various legislation; the act also called the Tsar to call upon the Diet every five years. An act passed regarding religion was also passed in 1869 which prevented the power of the State over the church. Moreover, Finland also received its own monetary system, the Finnish markka, and its own army. [16]


Managers and directors of Walkiakoski Oy, a sulphate pulp mill in Valkeakoski, 1899 Walkiakoski Oy management 1899.jpg
Managers and directors of Walkiakoski Oy, a sulphate pulp mill in Valkeakoski, 1899

The policies of Russification under Alexander III and Nicholas II easily sum up the time period from 1881 to 1917. In 1881, Alexander III took the throne after the death of his father and began a rule of staunch conservative, yet peaceful, rule of Russia. Finland, as well as many other outlying Russian territories, faced the burden of Russification, the cultural, social, economical, and political absorption into Russia. Compared to the early Russification of the 1830s and 1840s, the Russification of the late 19th-early 20th century was much more vigorous in its policies. Moreover, Finland faced political turmoil within its nation between various factions such as liberals, Social Democrats, Young Finns, and communists. Finland became a target for the Pan-Slavist movement, which called for Slavic unity in eastern Europe. Finland was viewed as conquered territory, and that as subjects, Finland was to respect the Tsar. Finland was also viewed as a land of settlement and that the "alien race" of the Finns were to be assimilated and protected from Western interference, thereby "blessing" the Finns with their presence. Moreover, Finnish representatives to the Tsar were replaced with Pan-Slavist advocates. [17]

Russification only increased from there, but from the 1880s on, the conflict between the Swedish minority halted. Compared to the Baltic States, the Finnish majority was far better educated and more keen in Russian politics. The reactionary policies of Russification, which aimed to combine secular nationalism and a divine right monarchy, infiltrated the Finnish economy in 1885. Finland had managed to create a thriving modern industry based around textiles and timber that managed to rival the Russian economy at the time. Russian bureaucrats, out of both shock and jealousy, called for the revision of the Russo-Finnish Tariff. Russification had taken an economic turn as well, as the basis of the reformed tariff was economic uniformity, which only furthered economic difficulties of Finland. The tariff's revision in 1885, and subsequently 1897, was formed out of spite of Finland's commercial success and working-class unity. Russification policies continued into 1890, with the addition of the Imperial Post System in Finland, replacing the Finnish post. It was not until the mid-1890s, that the Finnish people realized the true intentions of the Russian crown.

Helsinki in 1907 Ensimmaisten yksikamaristen valtiopaivien avajaiset 25.5.1907 - N252399 (hkm.HKMS000005-km0037rb).jpg
Helsinki in 1907
The first session of the Parliament of Finland in 1907 Eduskunta1907.jpg
The first session of the Parliament of Finland in 1907

Nicholas II ascended to the throne in 1894 after Alexander's death, and with him came General Nikolay Bobrikov, who was appointed governor-general. Under Bobrikov, the Finns had a near collective hatred of him, whose reactionary policies gave rise to socialism and communism among the Finnish working class. The Party of Active Resistance and Kagal, in particular, became very popular in Finland for the former's tactics of violence and the latter's tactic of propaganda and persuasion. At the beginning of this reign, Bobrikov almost immediately introduced a mandatory five-year military service, in which Finns had the possibility of being drafted into Russian units. Furthermore, he instituted that Russians be given the opportunity to serve in public office and that Russian be made the administrative language of Finland. In 1899, the February Manifesto under Nicholas II declared that Russian law was the law of the land, and Finland was to pledge allegiance to Russian law. The Diet was essentially downgraded to a state assembly and that Finland was a province of Russia, ignoring its autonomy. The Finnish Army as a whole was dissolved in 1901. [18] [19]

Bobrikov unintentionally united both Finns and Swedes against Russia, which only angered him more. With churches refusing to proclaim the law, judges refusing to carry it out, and conscripts refusing service, Bobrikov went on a frenzy with the current state of Finland. Bobrikov found little support in Finland, mainly from the Russian minority and members of the Old Finnish Party, an extreme right-wing party that found little success. Bobrikov brought in Russian officials to take government and state spots and, in an extreme act of anger, suspended the Finnish Constitution in 1903. His actions were met with extreme anger from Finns and Swedes, in which the moderate parties, the Young Finns and the Swedish Party combined to collectively fight Bobrikov. The Social Democratic Party of Finland, a Marxist party popular among peasants was also extremely hostile and advocated class warfare and took arms, in contrast to the Social Democrats elsewhere in Europe. Finally, the Party of Active Resistance, a far-left party that advocated an armed struggle and guerilla tactics, received fame when member Eugen Schauman assassinated Bobrikov in Helsinki on June 16, 1904. [19]

In 1905, Russia faced a humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese War and amidst the turmoil in St. Petersburg, Finns remade their constitution and formed a new Diet whose representation was based on universal suffrage, giving women full suffrage before any other European nation after the short-lived Republic of Corsica. However, the Diet was quickly destroyed by Pyotr Stolypin, Nicholas II's prime minister. Stolypin proved to be even more vigorous than Bobrikov, as he believed every subject should be a stoic patriot to the crown and uphold undying loyalty to Russia. Stolypin wished to destroy Finland's autonomy and disregarded native tongues and cultures of non-Russian subjects, believing them to be traditional and ritualistic at best. The Finnish Diet once again formed to combat Stolypin, but Stolypin was bent on quashing Finnish insurrection and permanently disbanded the Diet in 1909. As with Bobrikov before him, Stolypin was unaware that such actions only fanned the flames and was subsequently assassinated by Dmitry Bogrov, a Ukrainian member of the far-left. From Stolypin's death henceforward, the Russian crown ruled Finland as a monarchist dictatorship until Russia's collapse during the Russian Revolution, from which Finland declared independence, a war of independence that soon transformed into a civil war. [20] [21] [22]

Government and Politics

Map of Finland, about 1900. The map is in Russian and uses the Swedish place names written in Cyrillic. Finlandduchy.jpg
Map of Finland, about 1900. The map is in Russian and uses the Swedish place names written in Cyrillic.
Provinces of the Grand Duchy of Finland Provinces of Grand Duchy of Finland.svg
Provinces of the Grand Duchy of Finland

The Russian emperor ruled as the Grand Duke of Finland and was represented in Finland by the Governor-General. The Senate of Finland was the highest governing body of the Grand Principality and was composed of native Finns. In St. Petersburg Finnish matters were represented by the Minister–Secretary of State for Finland. The Senate had a primarily advisory role until it got the right to representation in 1886. On top of having its own central, regional and local administration, Finland had its own stamps, currency and army.

Alexander I did not want the Grand Duchy to be a constitutional monarchy but the governmental institutions born during the Swedish rule offered him a more efficient form of government than the absolute monarchy in Russia. This evolved into a high level of autonomy by the end of the 19th century. There were a total of twenty Governors-General from the Finnish War until independence: [23]


The administrative division of the Grand Duchy followed the Russian imperial model with provinces (Russian : губернияgovernorate, Swedish : län, Finnish : lääni) headed by governors. Few changes were made however, and as the language of the administrators was still Swedish the old terminology from the Swedish time continued in local use. The Viipuri Province was not initially part of the Grand Duchy, but in 1812 it was transferred by Tsar Alexander I from Russia proper to Finland. After 1831 there were eight provinces in the Grand Duchy until the end and that continued in the independent Finland:


A variant of the Finnish mechant flag, 1809-1821 GD Finland 1809-1821.PNG
A variant of the Finnish mechant flag, 1809-1821
A variant of the Finnish mechant flag used by the Swedish-speaking population, 1905 Striped Flag of Finland (unofficial).svg
A variant of the Finnish mechant flag used by the Swedish-speaking population, 1905
A Finnish-speaker version of the above flag Blue-White Striped Flag of Finland (unofficial).svg
A Finnish-speaker version of the above flag

The Grand Duchy of Finland had no official flag, but different types of flags were used in different occasions. An official flag was debated even in the Diet of Finland in the 1860s, but one was never officially chosen. [24]

An official maritime flag was chosen in 1812 for governmental use. It was a white flag, with the Russian flag in the upper corner and a compass rose in the middle. In 1883 it was replaced with a blue cross flag with the compass rose in the upper corner. A post flag (a white flag with the Russian flag in the upper corner and a post horn in the middle) was also used in the Grand Duchy, along with a customs flag (a blue flag, with the Russian flag on the upper corner and the logo of the customs agency in the middle).

Originally there were no regulations regarding merchant flags until in 3 October 1821 Finnish ships were given the right to fly the Russian flag without permission. White, blue and red flags with the Russian flag in the corner were also used. Later on six and nine-striped flags with the colors of the Russian flag twice or thrice saw some use. [25]

A blue cross flag similar to that of the modern Flag of Finland was first used by the yacht club Nyländska Jaktklubben in 1861, equipped with the coat of arms of Uusimaa in the upper corner. It was inspired by the similar flag used by the Neva Yacht Club. The flag of the yacht club was made official by the Senate in 1890 when the Swedish-speaking Östra Nylands Segelförening adopted the Flag of Sweden. [26]

At the end of the 19th century, flags with the coat of arms were used in unofficial contexts such as private estates and protests. In official contexts, the Russian white-blue-red tricolour was primarily used. [27]

The Grand Duchy of Finland participated in the 1912 Summer Olympics with their own team. In the opening ceremony, the Finnish team marched behind the Russian team with a Finland-sign. In the medal ceremonies, the Russian flag above a white-blue pennant reading "Finland" was raised for the Finnish athletes. [28]

Historical population of the Grand Duchy

1810: 863,000 [29]
1830: 1,372,000
1850: 1,637,000
1870: 1,769,000
1890: 2,380,000
1910: 2,943,000
1920: 3,148,000

See also

Related Research Articles

Län administrative division used in Sweden and previously in Finland

Län and lääni refer to the administrative divisions used in Sweden and previously in Finland. The provinces of Finland were abolished on January 1, 2010.

Governor-General of Finland position

Governor-General of Finland ; was the military commander and the highest administrator of Finland sporadically under Swedish rule in the 17th and 18th centuries and continuously in the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland between 1809 and 1917.

The Senate of Finland combined the functions of cabinet and supreme court in the Grand Duchy of Finland from 1816 to 1917 and in the independent Republic of Finland from 1917 to 1918.

Nikolay Bobrikov Russian politician

Nikolay Ivanovich Bobrikov was a Russian general and politician. He was the Governor-General of Finland and the Finnish Military District from 29 August [O.S. 17] 1898 to 16 June [O.S. ] 1904 during the early reign of Emperor Nicholas II, and was responsible for the Russification of Finland. After appointment as the governor-general, he quickly became very unpopular and was assassinated by a Finnish nationalist.

Viborg and Nyslott County county of Sweden

Viborg and Nyslott County was a county of the Swedish Empire from 1634 to 1721. The county was named after the castle towns of Viborg and Nyslott, today located in the towns of Vyborg in Russia and Savonlinna in Finland.

Kexholm County county of Sweden

Kexholm County was a county of the Swedish Empire from 1634 to 1721, when the southern part was ceded to the Russian Empire in the Treaty of Nystad. The capital of the county was Kexholm, which today is Priozersk.

A governorate, or a guberniya, was a major and principal administrative subdivision of the Russian Empire and the early Russian SFSR and Ukrainian SSR. The term is usually translated as government, governorate, or province. A governorate was ruled by a governor, a word borrowed from Latin gubernator, in turn from Greek kybernetes. Sometimes the term guberniya was informally used to refer to the office of a governor.

Anjala conspiracy scheme by disgruntled Swedish officers to end Gustav IIIs Russian War of 1788–90

The Anjala conspiracy of 1788 was a scheme by disgruntled Swedish officers to end Gustav III's Russian War of 1788–90. Declaring Finland an independent state was part of the plot, although it is disputed what importance the conspirators connected to that aspect.

Finland declared its independence on 6 December 1917. The formal declaration of Independence was only part of the long process leading to the independence of Finland.

The Minister–Secretary of State for Finland represented interests of the Grand Duchy of Finland in the Imperial Court in Saint Petersburg from 1809 to 1917. Before 1834 the title was secretary of state. The Russian Tsar was represented in Helsinki by the Governor General.

1907 Finnish parliamentary election

Parliamentary elections were held in the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland on 15 and 16 March 1907. They were the first parliamentary election in which members were elected to the new Parliament of Finland by universal suffrage and the first in the world in which female members were elected.

Postage stamps and postal history of Finland

Finland has produced postage stamps for use since 1856.

Finland–Russia relations Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Finland and Russia

Finno–Russian relations have been conducted over many centuries, from wars between Sweden and Russia in 1700s, to the planned and realized creation and annexation of the Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empire during Napoleonic times in 1800s, to the dissolution of the personal union between Russia and Finland after the abdication of Russia's last czar in 1917, and subsequent birth of modern Finland, with support of the bolshevik (Soviet) Russian government. Finland had its own civil war with minor involvement by Soviet Russia, was later invaded by the USSR, and had its internal politics influenced by it. Relations since then have been both warm and cool, fluctuating with time. Finland now imports a large amount of goods and basic necessities, such as fuel, from Russia. Russia imports a large amount of Finnish goods, such as wood products, and services, such as communications technology. Russia has an embassy in Helsinki, a consulate-general in Turku and consulates in Lappeenranta and Mariehamn. Finland has an embassy in Moscow, a consulate-general in Saint Petersburg and two branches of the consulate.

The governorates of the Grand Principality of Finland were the administrative division of the Grand Principality of Finland as part of the Russian Empire from 1809 to 1917.

The Kuopio Province was a province of Finland from 1831 to 1997. The province was named after its capital, city of Kuopio.

Savolax and Karelia County was a county of Sweden 1775-1809 and province of Grand Duchy of Finland 1809-1831. It was formed in 1775 when Savolax and Kymmenegård County was divided into Savolax and Karelia County and Kymmenegård County. Residence city was Kuopio.

Kymmenegård County was a county of Sweden 1775-1809 and province of Grand Duchy of Finland 1809-1831.


  1. Klinge 1997, Jutikkala & Pirinen 2002, Pulma 2003a, Zetterberg 2003, Jussila 2004, Ylikangas 2007
  2. Haapala 1995, Jussila 2004 ja 2007, Ylikangas 2007
  3. Leif Tengström: "Muschoviten...Turcken icke olijk" II, 1997, s. 104
  4. Knapas, Rainer (2014). "Ajankohtainen Armfelt". Tieteessä tapahtuu (in Finnish). Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  5. Jutikkala & Pirinen 1962, pp. 178–79, 183.
  6. Jutikkala & Pirinen 1962, p. 185.
  7. Seton-Watson 1967, pp. 114–15.
  8. Jutikkala & Pirinen 1962, pp. 191–92, 194.
  9. Jutikkala & Pirinen 1962, pp. 195–96.
  10. Jutikkala & Pirinen 1962, pp. 199–206.
  11. Hall 1953, pp. 127–28.
  12. Mäkinen 2015, pp. 292–95.
  13. Mäkinen 2015, pp. 295–96.
  14. Hall 1953, p. 128.
  15. Seton-Watson 1967, pp. 415–16.
  16. Jutikkala & Pirinen 1962, pp. 215–16, 222.
  17. Jutikkala & Pirinen 1962, pp. 222–24.
  18. Jutikkala & Pirinen 1962, pp. 229–32.
  19. 1 2 Seton-Watson 1967, pp. 498–99.
  20. Seton-Watson 1967, pp. 668–69.
  21. Jutikkala & Pirinen 1962, pp. 242–55.
  22. Hall 1953, p. 129.
  23. Apunen 1987, Jutikkala & Pirinen 2002, Pulma 2003a, Jussila 2004
  24. Kajanti 1997 p. 110–140
  25. Kajanti 1997 ss. 88–90
  26. Kajanti 1997 s. 79–80
  27. Kajanti 1997 p. 164
  28. Kajanti 1997 p. 176–178
  29. B. R. Mitchell, European Historical Statistics, 1750–1970 (Columbia U.P., 1978), p. 4


Further reading